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Ecclesia Dei is the document Pope John Paul II issued on 2 July 1988 in reaction to the consecration of four bishops despite an express prohibition by the Holy See. It said that the two consecrating bishops and the four priests they consecrated were excommunicated. John Paul called for unity and established the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to foster a dialog with those associated with the consecrations who hoped to maintain both loyalty to the papacy and their attachment to traditional liturgical forms.
Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.
The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, is the apostolic episcopal see of the bishop of Rome, known as the Pope, ex cathedra the universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, and a sovereign entity of international law. Founded in the 1st century by Saints Peter and Paul, by virtue of Petrine and Papal primacy according to Catholic tradition, it is the focal point of full communion for Catholic bishops and Catholics around the world organised in polities of the Latin Church, the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, and their dioceses and religious institutes.
The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei was a commission of the Catholic Church established by Pope John Paul II's motu proprioEcclesia Dei of 2 July 1988 for the care of those former followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who broke with him as a result of his consecration of four priests of his Society of St. Pius X as bishops on 30 June 1988, an act that the Holy See deemed illicit and a schismatic act. It was also tasked with trying to return to full communion with the Holy See those traditionalist Catholics who are in a state of separation, of whom the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) is foremost, and of helping to satisfy just aspirations of people unconnected with these groups who want to keep alive the pre-1970 Roman Rite liturgy.
As is customary for such a papal document, it takes its name from the opening words of its Latin text, Ecclesia Dei, meaning "God's Church".
On 30 June 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer consecrated four priests as bishops at the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in Écône, Switzerland. The SSPX was an association of priests that Lefebvre had founded in 1970. Its members distrusted the changes then taking place in the Church in the years following the Second Vatican Council. Referring to these consecrations, the Pope wrote in Ecclesia Dei: "In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience – which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy – constitutes a schismatic act (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 751). In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1382)."
Marcel François Marie Joseph Lefebvre was a French Roman Catholic archbishop. Ordained a diocesan priest in 1929, he joined the Holy Ghost Fathers for missionary work and was assigned to teach at a seminary in Gabon in 1932. In 1947, he was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Dakar, Senegal, and the next year as the Apostolic Delegate for West Africa.
Antônio de Castro Mayer was a Brazilian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. A Traditionalist Catholic and ally of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, he was Bishop of Campos from 1949 until his resignation in 1981.
Écône is an area in the municipality of Riddes, district of Martigny, in the canton of Valais, in Switzerland. It is the location of The International Seminary of Saint Pius X.
Pope John Paul II went on to make "an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfil the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church's law (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1364)."
Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular receiving of the sacraments. The term is often historically used to refer specifically to excommunications from the Catholic Church, but it is also used more generally to refer to similar types of institutional religious exclusionary practices and shunning among other religious groups. For instance, many Protestant denominations, such as the Lutheran Churches, have similar practices of excusing congregants from church communities, while Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as the Churches of Christ, use the term "disfellowship" to refer to their form of excommunication. The Amish have also been known to excommunicate members that were either seen or known for breaking rules, or questioning the church.
The Pope instituted the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to assist those who had been associated with Archbishop Lefebvre but who wished "to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre",a protocol that Archbishop Lefebvre later repudiated.
The Pope stated: "Respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962". In this the Pope expanded the scope of permission already granted under the 1984 special indult Quattuor Abhinc Annos .
The Roman Missal is the liturgical book that contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.
The conditions indicated in the document to which Pope John Paul referred were replaced on 7 July 2007 by those indicated in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum .
Summorum Pontificum is an apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XVI, issued in July 2007, which specified the circumstances in which priests of the Latin Church may celebrate Mass according to what he called the "Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962", and administer most of the sacraments in the form used before the liturgical reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Benedict XVI gave the Commission additional functions with respect to the use of Tridentine liturgy in Summorum Pontificum on 7 July 2007. On 8 July 2009, in Ecclesiae unitatem , he modified its position within the Roman Curia by making the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) the ex officio head of the Commission. On 17 January 2019, Pope Francis abolished the Commission and transferred its responsibilities to a "special section" within the CDF.
The Tridentine Mass, also known as the Traditional Latin Mass, Usus Antiquior or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is the Roman Rite Mass which appears in typical editions of the Roman Missal published from 1570 to 1962. The most widely used Mass liturgy in the world until the introduction of the Mass of Paul VI in 1969, it is celebrated in ecclesiastical Latin. The 1962 edition is the most recent authorized text, also known as the Missal of Saint John XXIII after the now canonized Pope who promulgated it.
Traditionalist Catholicism is a set of religious beliefs made up of the customs, traditions, liturgical forms, public and private devotions, and presentations of the teaching of the Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). It is associated with an attachment to the pre-1970 Roman Rite Mass, referred to as the Traditional Latin Mass.
The Society of Saint Pius X, also known as the SSPX, the FSSPX or Lefebvrians, is an international priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by Marcel Lefebvre, the French archbishop of the titular see of Synnada in Phrygia.
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is a traditionalist Catholic society of apostolic life for priests and seminarians which is in communion with the Holy See.
Darío del Niño Jesús Castrillón Hoyos was a Colombian cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy from 1996 to 2006 and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei from 2000 until his retirement in 2009. He was made a cardinal in 1998.
The Society of Saint Pius V, is a Traditionalist Catholic society of priests, formed in 1983 and based in Oyster Bay Cove, New York. The priests of SSPV broke away from the Society of St. Pius X over liturgical issues, and hold that many in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church no longer adhere to the Catholic faith but instead profess a new, modernist, Conciliar religion. SSPV priests regard the questions of the legitimacy of the present hierarchy and the possibility that the Holy See is unoccupied (sedevacantism) to be unresolved. The SSPV is led by its founder, Bishop Clarence Kelly.
Indult Catholic was a traditionalist Catholic loaded term used from the early 21st century until 2007 as a pejorative label applied to Catholics who attended only the licit celebrations of the Tridentine Mass in Latin according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal and regulated by the local bishop through an indult that conformed to the 1984 Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments norms in the ecclesiastical letter Quattuor abhinc annos.
Bernard Fellay, SSPX is a Swiss bishop and former superior general of the Traditionalist Catholic Society of Saint Pius X. In 1988, Pope John Paul II announced that Fellay and three other bishops were automatically excommunicated for being consecrated bishop by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, an act that the Holy See described as "unlawful" and "schismatic". Archbishop Lefebvre, and Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer who co-consecrated these four bishops, were also excommunicated. In January 2009, at Fellay's request, the Congregation for Bishops, on instructions from Pope Benedict XVI, rescinded the excommunication.
Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, SSPX is a French Traditionalist Roman Catholic bishop of the Society of Saint Pius X.
Alfonso de Galarreta Genua, SSPX, is a Spanish-Argentine bishop of the Society of Saint Pius X. He was declared excommunicated latae sententiae by Pope John Paul II because of his unauthorized consecration by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, deemed by the Holy See to be "unlawful" and "a schismatic act". The SSPX denied the validity of the excommunication, saying that the consecrations were necessary due to a moral and theological crisis in the Catholic Church. The automatic excommunication was remitted by the Holy See on 21 January 2009.
Quattuor abhinc annos is the incipit of a letter that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments sent on 3 October 1984 to presidents of episcopal conferences concerning celebration of Mass in the Tridentine form.
Antonio Cañizares Llovera is a Spanish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who is the Archbishop of Valencia. He is the former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2008 to 2014, and former Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain from 2002 to 2008. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006. He was appointed Archbishop of Valencia in August 2014, a move which removed him from the Congregation.
The Écône consecrations were a set of episcopal consecrations that took place in Écône, Switzerland, on 30 June 1988. They were performed by Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Meyer, and the priests raised to the episcopacy were four members of Lefebvre's Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). The consecrations, performed against the explicit orders of Pope John Paul II, represented a milestone in the troubled relationship of Lefebvre and the SSPX with the Church leadership. The Holy See's Congregation for Bishops issued a decree signed by its Prefect Cardinal Bernardin Gantin declaring that Lefebvre had incurred automatic excommunication by consecrating the bishops without papal consent.
For a number of years after the 1988 consecrations, there was little if any dialogue between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See. This state of affairs ended when the Society led a large pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee in the year 2000.
The canonical situation of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a group founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, is unresolved. It has been described as "both complex and fluid."
Monseigneur Lefebvre, un évêque dans la tempête is a 2012 documentary film by French director Jacques-Régis du Cray, primarily based on the biography A biography of Archbishop Lefebvre written by Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais.